Esoteric London

No. 319: King Street, SW1

Posted in Eating places, London Labour by esotericlondon on May 19, 2011

© Roger Dean_SHI4686 - RogerRGB copy

King Street, London, SW1. Photo © Roger Dean 2010

London Labour and the London Poor; A Cyclopaedia of the Condition and Earnings of Those That Will Work, Those That Cannot Work, and Those That Will Not Work, Volume 1 – Henry Mayhew, 1851:

There are some street people who, nearly all the year through, sell nothing but periwinkles, and go regular rounds, where they are well known. The “wink” men, as these periwinkle sellers are called, generally live in the lowest parts, and many in lodging-houses. They are forced to live in low localities, they say, because of the smell of the fish, which is objected to. The city district is ordinarily the best for winkle-sellers, for there are not so many cheap shops there as in other parts. The summer is the best season, and the sellers then make, upon the average, 12s. a week clear profit; in the winter, they get upon the average, 5s. a week clear, by selling mussels and whelks – for, as winkles last only from March till October, they are then obliged to do what they can in the whelk and mussel way. “I buy my winks,” said one, “at Billingsgate, at 3s. and 4s. the wash. A wash is about a bushel. There’s some at 2s., and some sometimes as low as 1s. the wash, but they wouldn’t do for me, as I serve very respectable people. If we choose we can boil our winkles at Billingsgate by paying 4d. a week for boiling, and 1⁄2d. for salt, to salt them after they are boiled. Tradesmen’s families buy them for a relish to their tea. It’s reckoned a nice present from a young man to his sweetheart, is winks. Servant girls are pretty good customers, and want them cheaper when they say it’s for themselves; but I have only one price.”

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